Nicola Sturgeon triggered a legal showdown at the UK’s highest court to secure a second independence referendum on October 19 next year.
The first minister named the date as she outlined a long-awaited roadmap to get past Westminster’s refusal to grant a vote.
“The issue of independence cannot be suppressed. It must be resolved through a process that is above reproach and commands confidence,” she said in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.
“My determination is to secure a process that allows the people of Scotland to express their views in a legal, constitutional referendum.”
However, Ms Sturgeon signalled a long legal battle ahead.
The process will be referred to the Supreme Court by Scotland’s Lord Advocate, the country’s top law officer.
The first minister warned that if she cannot hold a vote next year, her party will fight the next Westminster election as a “defacto” referendum.
Boris Johnson says no
In a letter to Boris Johnson, the SNP leader said she is still willing to negotiate a legal agreement, known as a section 30 order, with the prime minister.
She claimed the Tory leader was “refusing to respect” democracy north of the border.
Ms Sturgeon also says the question on the next referendum ballot paper will be the same as in 2014.
Eight years ago, voters were asked: “Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes or No.”
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said he will not take part.
He insisted another referendum should not take place and claimed the first minister is “obsessed” with holding a second vote “at all costs”.
The Holyrood Conservative chief branded Ms Sturgeon’s proposed referendum a “pretend poll”.
Scottish Labour chief Anas Sarwar warned against a rerun of the 2014 ballot and said now was not the time.
He insisted the first minister was more focused on trying to “divide our country” instead of prioritising Scotland’s Covid recovery.
Ms Sturgeon signalled her plans to hold a second referendum in 2023 earlier this month in a speech at Bute House.
Her goverment published the first in a series of papers outlining why the SNP believes Scotland should become independent.
‘Scotland deserves better’
During her speech, the first minister insisted Scotland “deserves better” and warned the country had “paid a price” for not being independent.
But she admitted: “Independence won’t always be easy. It isn’t for any country.”
Boris Johnson said he would study the Scottish Government’s bill “carefully”, but said independence should not be a priority right now.
He said: “The focus of the country should be on building a stronger economy, that’s what we’re doing with our plan for a stronger economy and I certainly think that we’ll be able to have a stronger economy and a stronger country together.”
Latest IndyRef twist
Ms Sturgeon has been in pursuit of a referendum since the UK voted in favour of Brexit, but she has come up short on several occasions.
In 2016, the first minister claimed a second vote was “highly likely”.
Her demands for a second vote on independence were brushed off by prime minister Theresa May.
The SNP leader again tried to push for a referendum after her party’s Westminster election success in December 2019.
But plans for a vote were temporarily shelved to focus on the Covid pandemic instead.